Fair Warning

Apparently I have “arrived”, to some small degree, since over the weekend I was the recipient of quite a few bot-written emails telling me I’m “too political” and have “lost readers” because of it. Well, either those emails were bot-written or more than one subliterate fascist mouthbreather with exactly the same knee-jerk misspellings and right-wing buzzword addictions decided to hit my contact form at exactly the same time from masked IPs.

Hilarious, isn’t it.

Assuming for one moment these were written by a real human being instead of a bot, I decided to make a public statement. Here it is again, just for clarity:

So if you’re emailing me with “you’ve lost me as a reader, you’re too political,” let me just answer you publicly: I don’t write for fascist white supremacist asshats. Go with your tiny god, I am singularly untroubled by your absence. Besides, I suspect you pirate content instead of buying honestly anyways, because cowardly thieves are all of a piece.

What I said on Twitter, and I meant it.

I’m repeating it here because my tweets are deleted after a certain amount of time (Jack Dorsey doesn’t get to mine my content for more than a short while, dammit) and so there is absolutely no grey area or confusion about where I stand.

No story is “apolitical”, and if you think it is, it’s only because you share prejudices with the writer. Human beings are political beings; artists transmute their daily lives into art and make no mistake, politics are a part of daily life. Politics affect schooling, the availability of food, whether or not a particular person will be targeted by violent law enforcement or COINTELPRO, the availability of healthcare, and a host of other inescapable facets of modern life.

If you side with violent repression, if you side with white supremacy, if you side with hatred and bigotry, you’re not going to like me or my books. Consider this fair and explicit warning. Also, attempting to threaten or “shame” me will only get you roundly mocked. Go sit in your dirty racist diaper and howl elsewhere, you’re doing this to yourself and I have no sympathy.

Everything is on fire right now, and I have to work. I have the luxury of still having work, and of being able to shut off the wi-fi and concentrate–if I can, I suspect it will be difficult for a long while. Of course I’d love to be a superhero, or impersonate one out on the streets, but that’s not my lane. My lane is my books, to tell stories, to tell the truth with fiction and not to look away, and to use whatever privilege and platform I personally have to boost those voices which might not have either.

If this angers you, if this makes you want to avoid my books or my blog or my social media streams, that’s fine. I’m not forcing you to read me. There’s a vast mass of content out there, I’m very sure you’ll find something that suits you.

I will not stop doing–and saying–what I know is right. I’m also not going to stop writing romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or any other genre I damn well please. If that’s a problem for you, there’s the door. If it isn’t, great! Come on in, grab a digital drink, and I’ll keep telling stories.

And that, as they say, is that. Onwards to Monday, my friends.

Perception, Proportion

I may have wildly overestimated my ability to keep up with the firehose of bad news.

Of course, I am ambitious when it comes to seeing how much punishment I can absorb, a habit left over from childhood when it became a point of pride to disassociate during bad events so I wouldn’t cry or give any sign of weakness.

It’s only taken me decades to realize this is perhaps just the slightest, the very tiniest bit unhealthy.

Anyway, I spent yesterday getting the week’s subscription stuff edited and scheduled, as well as hopping out to the grocer’s. I made it between two waves–retail and food service taught me the magic of “dead times”–and was pleased that most people were wearing snotcatchers (i.e., masks) but not so pleased at the visible signs that most of them also considered the worst to be past.

It’s not. Even I can tell as much. I’m not the brightest bulb in the marquee, but I am possessed of a professional imagination, and predicting is somewhat of a hobby. Of course, every human being is somewhat of an expert in predicting human behavior–we do it all day, every day, and our survival depends upon it. The trick is to trust your own perceptions while simultaneously checking them against trusted external sources for a sense of proportion.

So here I am on a Tuesday, feeling pummeled even though I’ve barely been out of bed for two hours. At least there’s coffee. Both dogs are all but prancing with eagerness to get out the door. I should spend some time deciding the next Quarantine Edition–Jozzie & Sugar Belle is pay-what-you-want until tomorrow; after that, it’ll probably be something else.

On the bright side, that leaves most of the day for actual wordcount. I just want to crawl into a book and forget everything going on outside my four walls. Anxiety is eating the energy I desperately need to get Season Three of HOOD and The Bloody Throne out. I’m trying to moonlight with a trunk novel and The Black God’s Heart, but making books jealous by working on other books requires the wherewithal to work in the first place.

I also have to stop reading The Body Keeps the Score until things calm down a little. There’s a whole lot of useful in that book, but underlining bits that resonate on almost every page is bringing up a whole lot of things I don’t have the bandwidth to process or think about right now. I should probably shift back to The Sailor From Gibraltar even though the narrator is a complete asshole1, because piercing nostalgia is better than quivering from remembered disaster.

So. Today at 11am the latest Haggard Feathers will drop; last month we talked about marketing, this month we’re talking about self-care. We’ve covered physical and emotional self-care, this week we’re talking about what burnout is, and next week we’ll go over strategies to ameliorate said burnout.

Regular readers will notice I’m blogging less; I have a few more balls in the air than I used to and the global situation has robbed me of a lot of the energy that went into the usual Daily Grind schedule. Right now I only have the spoons for Tuesday-Thursday updates; Haggard Feathers and the fiction subscriptions are eating up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s energy quota. If we ever get back to non-apocalyptic times, I’ll be back on my bullshit pronto.

It feels weird not to be blogging all the time. Peering back through the archives, I can see I’ve been at this for years. It’s a lot of content, and a lot of history. Reading some posts from years ago reminds me of things that didn’t make it into the daily updates, and sometimes those are pleasant. Other times… not so much.

I wish you a serene Tuesday, my chickadees. Remember to be gentle with yourself so you can be gentle with others–at least, the others who warrant it. I’m just ill-tempered enough today to bite back when That Fucking Guy shows up on my feeds.

I don’t know who made this, but I love it and use it all the time.

Off I go to walk a pair of Very Excited Dogs. See you in a few, dear ones.

Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?

Altered Deal

A cold morning. Not enough coffee. Dogs quiet after they rooted me out of bed with cold noses and the absolute unquenchable commitment to wriggling under the covers with me.

It’s not that I minded, there just wasn’t any room, so I had to get up and make some caffeine.

Today is for proofing HOOD‘s Season Two and wordcount on a couple other projects. I know I swore I’d just work on one thing at a time, and I am. I’ve just altered the meaning of “at a time” slightly; otherwise, I’d never get anything done.1

Mostly, it’s a crisis of confidence. My career is changing, and that means discomfort. I keep thinking nothing will ever get better, I’ll be struggling and scratching all my life, and it’s tiring. Why I expect it to be any different is beyond me; at the same time, there’s only so much well, I knew this when I started can do to ameliorate the feeling of what the hell?

There’s a lot of what the hell going on in my life right now.

My coffee is cooling rapidly, the dogs need a walk, I should plant a few things in the garden to get a jump on spring. The early cherry tree down the road keeps giggling every time I pass. Look, she says, you were so worried, but it’s fine. Leave the worry behind.

I wish I could. Would someone else pick it up if I did? Maybe the worry could carry itself, but if it could, what the hell is it doing on my back?

…yeah, I’m in a Mood. The cure is work, as usual; if I view the pain as labor pangs I can bite down and wonder what might be birthing. It could be that I’m having one of those strange plateaus before the work takes a leap forward, which would be welcome indeed.

Of course, some of this could be the fact that Sons of Ymre is 47k long and just embarking on its last half. There’s so much to be done, and I wonder if the story is top-heavy or just plain stupid. The crisis of confidence on a single story is metastasizing, spreading through everything else I need to get done on a daily basis.

So this is the part where I get stubborn. It might be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad story, but at least it will not be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, unfinished story. Small mercy, but one I’ll take. Ambition and the desire for security has never really moved me, but spiteful stubbornness? That’s the whipcrack I respond to, indeed.

I suppose if I get mad or spiteful I’d be able to buckle down more easily. But I’m so tired lately. Maybe I should blame time off; getting back to work seems an insurmountable chore once I halt. Objects in motion tending to stay in motion, and all that.

I’m even irritating myself with this. Time to gulp the last bit of caffeine, buckle the dogs into their harnesses, and get out the door. A brisk walk in the cold will hopefully give me better things to worry about.

I tell everyone else to just keep writing and trust the work. It’s that magical moment where I have to take my own damn advice or stop handing it out. It’s damn hard to trust the work when one doesn’t even trust oneself, but paradoxically easier than thinking one’s self might be trustworthy at all.

And now that I’ve confused myself mightily, I swear I’m getting out the door. Tuesday has managed to gain the initiative roll, but my armor class is high, I’ve shifted my charisma to dexterity, and I have a few daggers lying about.

The campaign ain’t over yet.

From Bede to Leduc

So, I recently read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I’m fascinated by the transition between paganism and Christianity for many reasons, personal and scholarly; I tend to follow Gibbons in thinking the faith both profited from and contributed enormously to the fall of the Roman Empire1. The older I get, the weirder Christianity and its assumptions seem to me.

Of course, the older I get, the weirder any religion other than a sort of salad-bar paganism seems. There’s a great deal of “live and let live” when your gods welcome foreigners into the pantheon as a matter of course. If one must be religious at all, a diverse group of gods who are required to show ID if they want you to do anything at all for them and are understood sometimes as representations of deep psychological processes one is harnessing for one’s own therapy and use in becoming a decent person is hardly the worst way to go.

But I digress. (As usual.)

History is full of “holy what the fuck” moments, and I had one about three-quarters of the way through the Ecclesiastical History, in Chapter XVI. Bede was talking about Caedwalla’s2 military takeover of the Isle of Wight.

Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys, brothers to Arwald, king of the island, were crowned with the special grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the Jutes. Coming to the place called At the Stone, they thought to be concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest, whose name was Cynibert, who had a monastery not far from there, at a place called Hreutford,  that is, the Ford of Reeds, he came to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.

–Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Project Gutenberg.

I quote the entire (short) chapter because I had to set the book down and stare into the distance, just working this around in my head. I think I even mouthed “what the fuck” at Miss B, who was snoring heavily next to me, blissfully unaware.

Dogs, man. Anyway.

The murder of royal children is nothing new in history; the very concept of monarchy makes it somewhat inevitable. Dictators pursue the families of those who oppose them on kind of the same principle, with extra terrorization thrown in.

But what brought me up cold was imagining those kids. Just think about it–you’re a child, your family is murdered, you’re hidden and betrayed, then you’re going to be executed and you know it, and along comes this guy to browbeat you into swearing allegiance to his particular sky fairy and he won’t leave you alone until you do.

Imagine being Bede and thinking this story is not horrifying but actually laudatory and exculpatory of murder, and worthy of being held up as a moral victory for your “pacifist” faith.3

Christianity is wild, yo. And people say history is boring.

Other things–like Bede’s constant harping on the “correct” way of calculating Easter, and the reasons why–were interesting and in some cases eye-rolling, but this one particular nugget filled me with cold sleepless horror. I had to take some Violette Leduc right after, to get the taste out of my mouth.

Of course, I also had to read Carlo Jansiti’s afterword about how Leduc’s publisher bowdlerized Ravages and wouldn’t bring out Therese and Isabelle until Leduc stood to make money from it from another (less shitty) publisher, at which point the shitty publisher said “Oh, no, we never said we wouldn’t publish it!”4 Which filled me with incandescent rage. I suppose as an anodyne to Bede it was healthy enough, but hardly less wearing on the nerves.

I was going to head right into The Book of Margery Kempe, but I think I need to pace myself and am instead diving into Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania, which I scored in the recent Palgrave sale. There’s only so much unfiltered medieval Christianity I can take at one go. Besides, the latter book is a collection of scholarly articles, so I can go hunting through the footnotes at leisure in a way the Kempe-dictated and priest-filtered book5 won’t allow.

I just… I’ve been thinking about that short chapter in Bede a lot lately. It hit me right in the feels, and I’ve never been so glad for modernity, imperfect as it is. Bede’s world was horrifying in several ways. Of course, life is still horrifying around the globe; I’m in an immensely privileged position (for many reasons) and grateful for it.

I want everyone in the world to be just as privileged as I am. More, even.

We can’t hope to understand or mitigate the horror without a knowledge of, and critical reckoning with, history. I think a lot about hearing Harry Turtledove talk about how on balance things are much better than they ever were, and he was absolutely right, but still, it’s awful enough and we can always do better.

Always.

Plastic Bat Objections

Yes, that is a small bat encased in Lucite. No, I did not buy it. Yes, I was awful tempted; no, I really didn’t buy it, because of Philosophical Objections.

But given that the morning I saw it was full of uncomfortable things, like being doused in asafetida-laced, salted rainwater while people were screaming, maybe I should have. At least I got a bookstore visit out of the deal.

I’m too old for weeks like this. Bring on Saturday, I’m done.

Tired. Just Tired.

Yesterday I did a thread about how much I hate seeing female action stars (or backup dancers) in heels. Cue a deluge of asshattery in my email inbox from guys who tell me I’m ruining all movies by having an opinion on social media.

Just another day, ho hum. No death threats yet, but they can’t be far behind.

I suppose I should view it as a sign that what I’m saying is almost becoming important, since the Misogyny Troll Brigade only comes after women they think have a chance of being heard and believed. At the same time…I’m tired. I’m just so damn tired.

Even getting up in the morning is becoming a chore. Tearing my heart out, over and over, to write stories is what I was meant and made for, but it’s still exhausting and the mass of misogyny, violence, bigotry, and hatred makes for rough swimming.

I often think about how much better it would be–how many more amazing stories, paintings, music, sculpture, poems–there would be if we weren’t struggling under that mass. It would be lovely…but so many people contribute to the stone over our living graves, either by inertia (very common) or by conscious evil (least common) or by just not caring when the boot lands on a human face as long as the face doesn’t look like theirs (most common of all).

Then I shake myself, smile ruefully, and get back to work. And yet…I’m so tired.

So, so tired. And I have no answer.

It will be better tomorrow, I suppose. But every once in a while, I wonder why I bother when so many people are seemingly determined to either be cruel or ignore cruelty until it reaches their very doorstep–and by then it’s too late.

*sigh* I’m gonna go pet the dogs now, and let them help me feel better. It’s not a panacea, but it’s damn close and I’m lucky to have it.

Over and out.